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Paul Greengrass on The Bourne Ultimatum

Published July 26, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Universal Pictures.
The Bourne Ultimatum Poster The Bourne Ultimatum
Paul Greengrass handled the difficult subject of 9/11 in a critically acclaimed and publicly sensitive way with United 93. Returning to the Bourne franchise with The Bourne Ultimatum, the mission now was pure fun. Yes, there are shady government characters with parallels to current news, but this isn't a message movie.

Greengrass Talks The Bourne Ultimatum

"The thing is when you come to a Bourne movie you come to have some fun," said Greengrass. "It’s a Saturday night movie. It’s the movie I’d go to if I were going out for a Saturday night and I’d want to have a great time and have the best ride of the summer. I’m not being facetious, I’m being honest here. Now, the Bourne world is the world that’s outside our door. If you opened your door in New York or Paris or London or whatever you got to believe that whatever story it is that Bourne’s engaged in could be happening there. But I don’t come to a Bourne movie to make any kind of statement. What attracts me to Bourne’s world is that is a real world and I think I’m most comfortable there. But I come to a Bourne movie to have fun as a filmmaker, to strut my stuff and that’s part of the fun of franchise filmmaking."

That ride includes signature fight scenes, car chases and tactical maneuvers, all shot on location. "Every one of them was a hideous nightmare. That’s the truth of it. But one of the things that I like to say when I’m making a film is whatever our problem is is our opportunity. If you’re going to say, 'Let’s mount really a very large sequence on Waterloo Station. ' That’s the busiest terminal in London, you know. Hundreds and hundreds of people are going through that place every hour. You can’t lock it down. They wouldn’t let you and you can’t do it, so what you have to do is see that as an opportunity not a problem. What you get is the texture of life within it and all the things I believe very, very much as a filmmaker is that if you create a film set which is the classic way it’s done which is highly sanitized. There’s a perimeter around it and you effectively erect a wall around yourself and then you’ve got a sanitized space where you can make your movie inside that. That’s fine but I think the problem is you become cut off from the real world, so I like to have a set that has what’s going on."

Greengrass also has an artistic mandate for his action sequences. "You’ve got to pay very close attention to how it’s set up. You’ve got to have a real reason for your character to move into action as opposed to oh, let’s just have an action sequence. So how you set up the narrative and the issues that are in play that demand the central character to go into action are very, very important and you have to choreograph that carefully and if you do it carefully and satisfactorily by the time you hit the action your audience is loving it because they’ve been primed to go. Then you’ve got to conceive of action in an original way that is consistent with Bourne and his world. That means that when Bourne is in a corner you can’t just have him pull out some kind of technology and get himself out of trouble or suddenly have some kind of magic powers that get him out of hole or he’s a superhero so he can just swat them aside. You’ve got to think through the thought process of a real man absorbing information at high speed, making a choice and then executing it with pace and precision. When you’re making the film, that’s what you’ve got to show all the time every time. You see that throughout all those action sequences."

Each sequence also affects Bourne profoundly. "The character has got to be changed during the course of the action. It’s got to be telling your something profound about the character as opposed to it just happening. So if you think of that whole Tangiers sequence, it resolves itself with a core character moment of shame about Bourne, he’s right there and he’s had to kill again and all of that. So when you marry those three things together then I think you get satisfying action."

The Bourne Ultimatum opens to theaters on August 3rd.

For the trailer, stills and more movie info, head over to The Bourne Ultimatum Movie Page.
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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Universal Pictures.

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